Shopping Cart Portage: An Optimization Proposal

Bryce MarshallIn the eCommerce universe few metrics are as deeply scrutinized as shopping cart abandonment. There are as many experts, agencies, and consultancies working on optimizing shopping cart performance and conversion rates as there are reasons for online consumers to mysteriously vanish mid-transaction.

I'm all for shopping cart optimization. Get those cart conversion metrics up! Meet with the usability pros! But, there is a point at which shopping cart optimization – if you’re measuring only online conversions – reaches a point of diminishing returns. Simply put, many online shoppers never intended to buy from the website in the first place. How can you quantify this as “abandonment?” Many shoppers want to make a purchase in-store because they prefer to interact with knowledgeable sales staff, try on outfits, see colors and styles, kick the tires on large-ticket items, or simply make a date with a girlfriend, grab a macchiato, swap gossip, and generally make an “event” of the shopping experience.

So, allow me to submit for approval the missing piece of the puzzle – the optimization that is tracked to the bottom line but is not necessarily showing up in current web metrics.

The missing piece is Shopping Cart Portage: in-store conversions of online shopping cart items that are intentionally abandoned.

So what does Shopping Cart Portage look like?

Shopper-friendly, In-store Conversion Aids

Do not fight reality. Recognize that some online shoppers who create a cart have no intention of buying online. Support this preference by creating a better brand experience.

Optimizing your website for Shopping Cart Portage means giving consumers a “send to phone” option. At any point in the shopping cart process an additional “send to phone” call-to-action allows the shopper to input their mobile phone number and receive a text message within seconds. The text message includes an embedded link to their current shopping cart, rendered for easy viewing in a mobile browser. Now the online shopper can refer to the details of their selections (size, color, brand, item number, SKU) and not miss a beat – or an item – when in the store. Better yet, in-store service staff can refer to that mobile cart and quickly track down all the items on their list, offering their own up-sell suggestions along the way. Long before we had online recommendation engines to drive up-sells, we had sales staff!

Additional features include a handy stock look up tool so shoppers can verify the items are in-stock at their favorite/local store, or the option to forward store location information, directions, and maps to their phone. Automated Shopping Cart Portage reminders can be sent by text message to remind customers to take their mobile cart to the store.

Update Conversion Measurement, Allocation Standards

Many hybrid retailers toil with an enormous chasm between their online and brick-and-mortar entities. Each business unit has a different budget, different metrics, and very little integration between them. To paraphrase one eCommerce manager I spoke with on the topic of Shopping Cart Portage, “Why would I spend one dollar of my online budget on something that drives the shopper to the store. We don’t get credit for in-store sales.” Why, indeed.

This comment summarizes broad failures in business organization and measurement. If the online and in-store units are competing then the brand stands blatantly opposed to established consumer behavior. Yet the core issue is not know-how or desire among the marketing teams to do what’s right. It’s an issue of metrics. Update your measurement processes to capture Shopping Cart Portage events:

  • Sales staff and cashiers are trained to enter a unique promotion or commission code that credits the purchase back to the online lead.
  • “Send-to-phone” users receive a unique coupon or promotion code in their text message, which drives them to the store in greater numbers and tracks the total receipt to the Shopping Cart Portage event when redeemed.

Shopping Cart Portage exists. Consumers already embrace multi-channel behavior. It is eCommerce professionals who lack both the initiative to optimize their performance around this behavior, and lack the tools to measure its impact to the bottom line. So, let’s add Shopping Cart Portage to the eCommerce lexicon alongside shopping cart abandonment. Perhaps brands will adopt “cart portage optimization” strategies and metrics, and a whole crop of experts, agencies, and consultancies will spring up to make their dollar.

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